It is generally accepted that Auckland is a growing little city with a lot of potential. It is also generally accepted that it has a transport problem. Mostly this is experienced by people when driving, as the problem of congestion. There is also a problem for anyone who wishes to get around without driving (and therefore not take part in nor contribute to that congestion), because by most standards, the options for doing so are seriously limited for a city of Auckland’s size and ambition. Auckland also suffers from the problems of trying to accommodate increasing numbers of vehicles in many parts of the city, especially in its most successful places, like Wynyard Quarter and Mission Bay and so on. These are the problems of auto-dependency (little choice but to drive) and auto-domination of place (not just roads and streets dominated by cars, but also destinations).

Furthermore, it is alarming that these problems are projected to only get worse, no matter how much we spend under current plans.

It is also clear that these issues are interrelated. A recent in-depth study comparing Auckland’s transport provision with 13 other cities in Australia, Canada, and the US summed up Auckland’s transport situation thus (with impressive academic understatement):

“Auckland, it should be noted, is in the same low range as the US cities in [Public Transport] service quantity per capita and considerably below all the other Australian/NZ cities. This probably reflects decades in which public transport has been given a relatively low priority.”


In unpacking this observation it is our view that:

1. The lack of quality alternatives to driving at all times and for every journey explains why such a relatively small city, with such expensively built and high quality road resources, has a congestion problem. In fact it is the overbuilding of one type of movement system (driving amenity) and undersupply of fast and attractive alternatives (Transit and cycling and walking infrastructure) that is the root cause of this problem.

2. It is neither difficult nor too expensive to fix this imbalance in Auckland.

3. This can be done by building on the work currently underway by Auckland Transport, and is consistent with the stated aims of Auckland Council to improve the whole city’s liveability. But it will require us to prioritise our transport investment to correct this structural imbalance. It will require a conscious change of policy from those of the last six decades that built the systems we now have.

It is important, however, to note that this does not mean the end of spending on improvements to the road network, nor that driving will somehow cease to be the dominant movement method across the wider city. Rather, it means that in order for both driving and the growing city to thrive, we need to prioritise investment in the areas that have been neglected for so long. This is a key change.

How to build the missing Transit network

We have shown with our staged programme for the development of a world class, city-wide and interconnected Rapid Transit Network, built largely on existing but under-utilised resources, that this is entirely possible in Auckland. That it is not the cost nor technical difficulties that have prevented this from occurring in the recent past, but simply the lack of the necessary political will and vision. That the current condition simply “reflects decades in which public transport has been given a relatively low priority.”

In previous posts we have also shown that none of the clichéd arguments why Auckland doesn’t have acceptable levels of Transit and Cycling amenity are convincing:

So, accepting that there are no insurmountable reasons for our lopsided transport offering – simply that it is the result of what we have invested in – in this post I wish to examine whether it is reasonable to expect Aucklanders to use new Transit services if we provide them.

I will do this in two ways. Firstly, we can use the Benchmarking Study by Ian Wallis Associates quoted above to compare Auckland to similar cities in the Pacific region, and secondly, we can look at the outcomes of recent investments in Transit in Auckland.

Here is the first chart from the report:

Pax per Capita Comparator cities

You can see the list of comparator cities. These were all chosen for being New World, Anglophone, Pacific Rim cities of a roughly similar size to Auckland. OK they’re not all on the Pacific, and some are smaller and some larger, and yes none are exactly identical to Auckland, but it is clear that they are certainly as close as it is possible to get. Of course no cities are precisely the same, but we are not comparing Auckland to Zurich, or Copenhagen, or Shanghai here.

And guess what? Auckland has the lowest number of Transit boardings across all modes per capita. It would take a 50% jump to catch the next worst cities, Brisbane and Seattle, and a more than 300% one to reach any Canadian city, and nearly that to reach Melbourne and Sydney.

Here’s another way to visualise it:

Pax and population

Clearly it’s not that we don’t have a high enough population to have better Transit performance: There are seven smaller cities on that list that are doing better than us, and of course all the larger cities rate better too, as Auckland is the class dunce by this metric.

OK, well let’s have a look by mode… perhaps if we had whatever systems those other cities have we would do better?:

Patronage by mode

It is interesting to note that the mode share for Ferries in Sydney is roughly 3%. Recently we’ve had people pop up in the media to say that we should look to Sydney and solve our transport woes with ferries. It doesn’t look like that’s likely to work – ferries in Auckland already carry a greater share than in Sydney.

No, it isn’t that we don’t have some services, it’s just that the services we have aren’t very good. Here are the bus customer satisfaction charts: rail and ferry are no better, and these are just comparing within New Zealand, with Auckland the school dummy again:

Bus customer satisfaction NZ

And again:

Auckland Bus service quality

Well, what do you expect for a subsidised service – if only the users paid more for the service, then wouldn’t it be better like in those other cities? How much do Auckland Transit users pay for this dubious pleasure?:

Fare revenue per pax:km

The most! Auckland really is the outlier among these cities.

Of course if more people were using Transit in Auckland then the fares would come to a higher quantum without necessarily raising costs, so how is our efficiency?:


Oh dear. Crappy and expensive.

So we charge a lot for whatever service there is, and we haven’t yet added any sophistications that we’re all used to when overseas like Oyster cards to made jumping on transit easy. Until recently we’ve only had unattractive stations, and we still run ancient trains and a slowly improving bus fleet, but what else could explain these consistently poor results? Ian, whaddayasay?:

Service types and modes

Ah-ha! yes we’ve got trains, buses, and ferries, but we haven’t run them at all well, neither with sufficient separation from general traffic (in the case of the buses), nor with sufficient frequency (in the case of the trains and boats).

Nor have we integrated them all together, been smart about payment either as a process nor as a quantum, nor have we built agreeable, well placed stations for departure, arrival, or transfer.

But still, what if those other places are just different? What happens when we look at our own history? Here is what happened after we moved a train station to a new, smarter building, closer to the biggest concentration of workers and students in the country – certainly better than expected:

Britomart Projection Numbers Graph

Britomart has exceeded its modelled patronage significantly – in fact, it had already exceeded the 2021 forecast by 2011.

Here is a chart for journeys to the area with the two recent ‘rapid transit’ investments, the City Centre. Before Britomart and the Northern Busway, up to 80% of all journeys to the city in the morning peak were by private car (with that share maximised in 1994). These two investments have taken that to below 50% (note that this chart doesn’t include ferry, walking, and cycling for some reason). So, these two investments have helped more people to access the commercial centre of the city, and have helped it to develop without having to accommodate ever-increasing quantities of cars, both moving and parked. This enables the kind of productivity growth and efficiencies that make cities successful.

CCFAS Modeshare 1990-2012

The figures for the Northern Busway – remember, the only ‘Rapid Transit’ quality bus service in Auckland – are just as impressive. The mode share for the morning peak for the bus jumped from 18% to over 40% once that service was improved by providing the separate busway for some of its journey. Keeping the general traffic flowing easier over the bridge while more people are actually getting to the city and back from the Shore, without adding more vehicles and therefore increasing congestion problems. Today, in the morning peak, more than half the people travelling across the Harbour Bridge to the city do so by bus.

What is important too is that the answer isn’t an argument about what sort of vehicle, so much as how it is run. It can be a bus or a train, but the really important issues are that it is:

1. On its own right of way so that it isn’t stuck in traffic with everything else

2. Frequent enough to offer a ‘turn-up-and-go’ user experience

Trains always have to have a clear right of way, but are expensive to build. Buses are cheaper to introduce, but really don’t meet the grade if they are just thrown in with all the other traffic. So either way there has to be some serious investment. And why should car drivers care for such a cost to the community?

Well, here is Brian Rudman in the Herald, describing how easy the traffic is during the school holidays when school drop-off trips are removed from the system. An estimated 5% reduction in total, but enough to make the traffic flow so much better. The kind of reduction that an interconnected, well run, frequent, fast and attractive to use Transit network is more than likely to achieve in Auckland, just like those comparator cities. And of course, if we do it really well, we could experience even more significant efficiencies. There is a reason that cities the world over invest in more than one transport network; they act in a complementary way.

Here for example is what happened in Perth after significant investment in their old rail system (slightly larger population than Auckland, but at a lower density):


So, Auckland’s rail patronage is at the same point as Perth’s before they radically improved the entire network: electrification, new trains, an underground City Link, and an additional line, and then later a further one too. Each time the system’s appeal and uptake lifts significantly. All of these riders are no longer on the road forming that congestion. It is important to note that dip in patronage as the works of the upgrade are carried out. Auckland is experiencing that phase now as it undertakes some similar improvements to Perth.

Auckland Transport is currently making a whole lot of necessary changes to their services. Over the next couple of years we will get new and fast electric trains, be able to seamlessly jump from service to service just by waving a HOP card, and watch as the whole bus network is radically redeployed to give us much more frequency and new options.

But it is our contention – and we believe the PT Benchmark study and our own recent history of response to investment supports this – that it is only by a determined effort to build a coherent, grade separate Transit network, sitting at the top of Auckland’s new Transit mix, that all of this effort will reward the people of Auckland with a true alternative to taking part in vehicle congestion. In short, without the pursuit of the vision similar to that expressed in our Congestion Free Network, we cannot expect Auckland to unlock its potential, and get the most value from all its new and existing transport systems.

CFN 2030A

In summary, it is our view that investment in the ‘missing modes’ in Auckland’s transport mix offers the best value use of transport funds because:

  • The urban motorway system is both nearly complete and lavish;
  • Further urban motorway extension only reinforces auto-dependency which is, after all, the root cause of congestion;
  • Further motorway additions at this point are only incremental, and are extremely expensive in the city environment;
  • The Transit and Active modeshares are so low by any reasonable standard, that the return on investment is more certain;
  • Investing in the ‘missing’ complementary networks builds much-needed resilience into the movement infrastructure of our biggest city;
  • Both these modes also offer considerable other benefits for the city and its viability and liveability: improved health outcomes, improved air quality, improved safety, reduced emissions, and reduced dependence on imported fuels.

As celebrated computer scientist Sir Anthony Hoare observed:

“Inside every large problem is a small problem struggling to get out.”

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  1. What can we (non-expert supporters of ATB) do to make sensible transport changes happen? I’m pretty sick of just groaning and want to help instead. Sure there’s the elections later this year and next year, but there’s not much a busy individual can do with those.

    1. Submit, yes.

      Write to your local representatives; MPs, local board members, and let them know it affects how you vote. You could also arrange short meetings, for even more effect. Strong political support is required, and that happens by removing the roadblocks and empowering the rest.

      1. Thanks for the suggestions.
        With “submitting”, don’t you have to know what you’re talking about? Or is it okay to just say that you support PT investment over other things?

        1. Knowing what you are talking about helps but isn’t essential. The most important thing is getting your thoughts out there.

        2. What Matt L said. At least being informed enough to know that you’re not reciting nice-sounding bollocks is a good start. As was observed when the DUP nonsense was going on, a lot of the submissions will likely receive no further consideration than “Thank you for your time” before being circular-filed because they are based on incorrect premises such as compulsory acquisition or “new” height restrictions which are actually lower than what’s currently allowed.

    2. Wrote a similar comment a few days ago, (belatedly) on the discussion of the merits of the Puhoi RoNS. Since these AT posts and majority of comments are the only truly informative public debate going on regarding Auckland Transport, does anyone here plan on holding any information events or protests that bring discussion to the wider public?

      Having gone through the submission process a lot recently, it seems a fairly hit-and-miss affair. Not to denigrate the benefit of those hits, but these are substantial budgets being discussed and the ratepayers and taxpayers who foot the bill are often out of the loop in terms of informed decision making. This has an effect when there opportunity to vote for local and national government occurs.

    3. Well Brendon I hear Generation Zero have an answer for you. I understand they will be rating candidates on their transport priorities making it really easy for you to figure out who is good, and who should be kept out. Have had a reasonable council for PT the last few years, but a slim majority. Things could go either way.

  2. Cue SF Lauren to say that Auckland’s public transport is good, the public transport in all the comparator cities is bad, up is down, black is white, Gerry is merely a misunderstood, delicate flower, and National genuinely support provision of public transport.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. The only comparison that shows Auckland’s current PT in a good light is Auckland 15 years ago. Not a good measuring stick.

        1. I was meaning that in a good way. It was in reference to some of the comments, on here recently, about how ‘Auckland’s PT is fine’. Only when comparing it to our history, not when comparing it to overseas operations.

          The graph that shows when Britomart opened is a prime example of how far things have come. I remember getting on one of the old ADL’s just after they got here and thinking, wow. Oh how times have changed and it wasn’t even that long ago (well, it doesn’t feel it anyway but that could be my age showing me up).

      1. If you want a job at NZTA, then learning their lingo helps… can you believe some NZTA staff refer to motorists on their State Highway network as “clients”. It’s true and they do it because it helps them focus on how to get more “clients”, who they want using their network more often, driving greater distances.

        When you explain to them that new roads induces more traffic, they talk about how it’s good to unlock latent demand.

        1. NZTA are public servants spending our taxes. Nothing more nothing less. If this doesn’t fit with ideology or feel sexy enough for them well they may need to experience life out in the actual private sector for a while. Lets call it ‘re-education’.

          They don’t have clients they have 4.5million bosses. And to enjoy the comfort and security of our generous employment they better get their heads back to reality. NZTA is an arm of the state, it is socialism in action; tax and spend, central planning, the whole commie nine yards.

        2. To be fair, the Police also have clients… who they lock up! And it took a very, very concerted effort across the organisation for the Fire Service to retain “members of the public” instead of moving to having clients. It’s a word that’s in widespread use across the public sector, even in contexts where it’s utterly inappropriate. WINZ is allowed to have clients (it’d do them good to think of the users of their services in that way!) The Companies Office is allowed to have clients. NZTA does not have clients, it has transport users, or would do if it weren’t for “transport” being code for “roads”. So I guess they should have road users. Either way, they’re not *&^(#[email protected] clients!

        3. What’s even worse is calling the people who work for them “resources”, and I’ve heard people called that name to their faces within central government.

    2. I really enjoy reading this site, but posts like this put me off. While you may not agree with SF Lauren’s comments, they do at least have substance.

      Your post had no substance at all and was completely inflammatory. That puts me off (and I’m very much pro-PT), and thus will likely put others off contributing here who may not yet be as PT-friendly.

  3. As fate would have it I just got an email from an old friend who lives in London visited Brisbane and had this to say:

    Brisbane is like Auckland’s shallow and slightly plain cousin. I’ve enjoyed the Australian fauna (especially all the weird birds and lizards): and the weather has been perfect (mid twenties, sunny, everyday). The restaurants are very stylish: my hotel and the conference was on the South Bank, and I really like the architecture has that blended inside-outside feel, with no need at all to fenestrate. Just a roof to keep the sun and rain off. On the other hand, the food hasn’t been amazing, and the coffee is mostly a bit poor, which is not how I remember Sydney, where I haven’t been for 13 years. It also has a severe Auckland style public transport problem, or as they say it here, a traffic problem.

    That last sentence pretty much sums up the transport discussion in Auckland, and my post above: “a severe…public transport problem, or as they say it here, a traffic problem.”

      1. Brisbane’s bus services are very successful. They carry 120 million trips p.a. (twice AKL’s entire annual patronage and 2.5 times their annual rail patronage) while the SE Busway carries approximately 2,000 pax per hour in the inter-peak. Along with Perth and Melbourne, Brisbane has been in the top tier of Australasian cities in terms of patronage growth over the last 10-15 years.

        At this point a lot of people point to bus congestion on the Victoria Bridge and say “gotcha”. But they overlook the fact that Brisbane’s heavy rail network is at capacity too – the trains just back up in tunnels and other places which are not so visible. In saying that, Brisbane is proposing to spend a lot on increasing capacity in their central city rail network, which sounds like a smart idea.

        Brisbane’s “problems” have very little to do with their PT investment priorities, it’s got more to do with the untold billions they have squandered on expensive highway projects.

        1. Having one of the highest rates of population growth after Perth also quickly creates some issues in a brief period of time – the hundreds of thousands of
          New Zealanders moving there does not exactly reduce congestion in the short term.

      2. You mean as opposed to investing in rail?

        On the one hand I agree as Perth has better numbers with a smaller population and has invested heavily in rail. On the other hand, Brisbane is still doing better than us with BRT.

        I do see BRT graded so that a rail option can be installed later as a good Trojan Horse strategy. Eventually with BRT it is likely the crowding will get too much and rail is then the only option. I am sure that eventually we will see the Northern Busway converted into a SkyTrain like system.

        If the process for the Northern Busway had stuck stubbornly to a rail or nothing approach, we would still be arguing about it.

        I think idealism has to take a back seat to political pragmatism or we will achieve nothing. The same story with cycling in Auckland.

        1. yes, and in the case of the Northern Busway, building it as rail would have been considerably more expensive due to the issues with the harbour crossing. Of course, when it comes time to build another crossing we can rectify that and incorporate rail at that time – but if we’d limited ourselves to rail from the outset then we’d still be waiting for a rapid PT option to the North Shore.

          Not only has the Northern Busway stimulated huge growth in patronage since it’s been open, but it’s done so at very little operating subsidy, In terms of Auckland’s share of the NLTF that means more is available to spend on things like rail services ($100m p.a.).

          So in this case, I’d suggest people like Ben revisit their modal biases and acknowledgge that the efficiency of BRT on the North Shore has enabled Auckland to invest more in operating services on its (resurgent) railways. They’re complements much more so than competitors.

        2. You said: “yes, and in the case of the Northern Busway, building it as rail would have been considerably more expensive due to the issues with the harbour crossing. Of course, when it comes time to build another crossing we can rectify that and incorporate rail at that time – but if we’d limited ourselves to rail from the outset then we’d still be waiting for a rapid PT option to the North Shore….”

          I strongly agree with this. It is also useful to recall that the Busway was part of Transit’s mitigation conditions for previous SH1 motorway expansion projects – at that time it would never have been rail – though most (but not all) of the road crossings have been designed to carry rail services in future. While some North Shore citizens complain about subsidising rail “used only by Aucklanders” – most are rational and fair enough to recognise that the BRT is North Shore’s “railway”.

          In fact I would note that its carrying capacity in terms of people/hour (greater than 10,000/hour) is still some way ahead of what even the medium term plans will provide on electrified rail (6 car sets carry 600 and even at 5 minute headways this equates to 7,200/hour).

        3. Joel: I assume you’re comparing the busway’s capacity to the post electrification Auckland rail fleet? The capacity issue ignores the fact that the busway spits out into traffic on the wrong side of the bridge – as per the thrust of this post, trains or traffic-indepedent bus corridors don’t have this problem. On the question of apples-to-apples capacity, light metro to the North Shore on the same corridor as the busway would have a theoretical capacity of around 30,000, though I agree with the premise that the busway was a cheap way to seal off a future rail corridor and offer decent public transport in the interim.

        4. Yes I am comparing with post-electrification rail – assuming 5 minute headways. But I am talking about RTN corridors – Rapid Transit Network. I realise the buses feed into, and leave, the RTN corridor – which is the Busway. But it’s the capacity of that corridor I’m talking about – at 10,000 pax/hour (I think the target when it was designed was 11,000). You will be aware of the Curitiba Busway corridors – with their capacity of up to 70,000pax/hour – but that’s about a 20 second service, with articulated buses carrying 270. And those buses don’t leave the corridor – they go from one side of the city to the other. The Northern Busway could be connected through the CBD and out to – say – South Auckland – or the Airport (without competing with rail). That would give it more of a high capacity corridor function. Buses could still pickup locally, and then thread onto the corridor – and pickup along the corridor and disperse into urban areas.

          We have a problem in Auckland with our existing rail network – even when it is electrified – because of competition from freight and because of the number of at-grade interchanges with the roading network. Perth’s rail network – while being the same gauge as ours – was built largely separated from the roading network. So it can deliver a carrying capacity of at least 20,000/hour.

        5. Joel I agree entirely with you sentiment, however I must nit pick a bit on your numbers. The busway cannot achieve 10,000/hour in it’s current form. That would require three to four buses a minute each way. Perfectly achievable on the full busway segment, but not over the bridge, along Fanshawe St and around downtown. Those levels would result in six to ten buses at each phase of the traffic lights, and six or ten all trying to stop at the same time.

          Also you are a touch light on the rail, more like 750-800 per six car set at reasonable full loads.

        6. Some good points, Joel, though I can’t see how a North-South corridor would stack up logistically. How would a dedicated high capacity North-South RTN work in Auckland? How would you run it separately to cars? How much would it cost to implement? I agree running freight on the same lines as passenger rail isn’t ideal, but I think it’s preferable to running buses and cars on the same piece of road. For starters, how do you deal with the harbour bridge? Even with the new tunnel plan, there has been no space earmarked for bus lanes (if I recall correctly).

        7. I’m happy to admit a modal bias – I think we’re partly in the mess we’re in today because the ‘bus experiment’ in Auckland over the past decades has been a failure to large extent. I’m not anti-bus per se, they have their place in the mix, but not as first rank infrastructure.

          The Trojan of BRTs as a strategic stop-gap has some merit but smacks of the usual false economy – we need to start doing things right straight out of the blocks – still haven’t learnt that lesson despite mis-steps stretching all the way back to the Harbour Bridge.

          Just another side note on Brisbane – I see their council is pro BRT but anti bus lanes – I doth quoth their council: “Council will not consider placing bus lanes within existing road corridors, unless alternative capacity is provided. Taking road space for bus lanes has in some instances caused major traffic congestion in the past.”

        8. Ok Ben, off you go to find three billion bucks to build a rail line down the Northwestern Motorway. Let us know when you’ve got it and we can cancel the current bus planning.

        9. Sorry but he is being completely foolish, saying nothing other than his preference of rail to ‘do things right’ will do, even though that is frankly impossible.

          BRT is doing things right, it’s getting public transport working weill with projects that are affordable and will actually be completed. Look at the Northern Busway, a $300m project instead of a three billion one.

        10. Yes but the tone can be a bit more ‘educational’ rather than emotive.

          Also, based on skytrain, I doubt a NW line would be $3B. I might do some comparisons but I would expect it to be closer to $1.6B (based on $100m per km which is very conservative I expect based on other systems).

        11. Bryce, I really don’t mind, I can take it. I did wonder where this harem scarem figure of $3 billion came from, and I didn’t actually mention the NWestern. You could buy bullet train tech for that. Like Nick R, I’m no expert, just another Aucklander who has seen this city stumble towards motor-centric solutions. I look around globally and the most livable cities have really great rail (light, heavy, sky, underground, whatever) except it seems, generally speaking, South America, where the price of petrochemicals is way less – I think around $1.50 a litre in Columbia. With our ability to produce renewables it seems almost irresponsible not to build our big city infrastructure around electricity. I can see the benefits of capillary bus routes in a place like AKL with our varied topography but I do not believe bus mass transit is a good thing generally for a hundred reasons that would take me all day to detail. I hope the new electric trains ignite some fresher thinking – just as I lament the fact that the Dockline tram, whilst a noble gesture, doesn’t go far enough or operate in a meaningful way.

          Even though the ATB is an open forum I know there’s a tendency for some prevailing fashions to predominate (while I think Patrick is doing great work I notice in his early posts he saw buses as part of the problem not the solution but has since watered down this view) and opposing views tend to get shouted down a bit. Still, all the fun of the fair. The key thing is the ATB lets the bureaucrats know the days of sloppy, half-baked measures are over – because the people are watching. And that might just be its greatest success.

        12. Ben S

          ” I think we’re partly in the mess we’re in today because the ‘bus experiment’ in Auckland over the past decades has been a failure to large extent.”

          I fear you have missed the real issue. May I rephrase your experiment as the ‘low quality public transport corridor experiment’. The Northern Busway is probably the biggest PT success in recent history in AKL. Unarguably so on a “bang for buck” basis (unless you count some bus lanes which are essentially free – e.g. the Onewa Rd Transit Lane).

        13. The three billion figure comes from the fact you’d have to build a second CRL just to tie it in to the network and get some city side stations in a reasonable location. Like the northern rail line which would need a harbour tunnel and a tunnel under the city to tie it in.

          How much do you think it would cost to build a rail line along the northwestern from Westgate to the city (yes that is my example, feel free to provide your own). I can see the efficiency of extending rail lines like from Onehunga to the airport, but in terms of totally new corridors I cannot see any value in demanding a potentially multi billion dollar rail solution up front.

          “The key thing is the ATB lets the bureaucrats know the days of sloppy, half-baked measures are over – because the people are watching. And that might just be its greatest success.”
          I agree completely, just I don’t consider a busway to be a sloppy half baked measure. Not while it is faster and carries more people than any of our rail lines.

        14. Ben, Nick is not just another Aucklander in this debate he is a qualified transport planner, trained overseas, and working in the industry here. I have learnt a huge amount from him.

          On the issue of buses in Auckland you are right to point out my suspicion of many bus advocates but that is because it is clear that many who argue that all AKL needs is ‘a few more buses’ mean nothing like what we mean especially with the CFN where we are arguing for Class A bus services; virtual trains.

          The worst pretend bus advocates only say ‘bus’, because they mean road, and road because that really means car. The next level down support a bus only transit service because they think it doesn’t really meaning investing properly infrastructure, as we have done with buses in Auckland outside of the core of the Northern Busway for decades.

          A true rail system of course has to have proper grade separation, so this will almost always mean a better faster service. Except of course this hasn’t really ever been the case in Auckland, well at least not in living memory, because it is still possible to underdeliver on rails as it is on rubber. At last with the new trains this will change, however we will still have them running on what is a stunted and awkward bottlenecked network. And to get the necessary investment to fix that problem has been, and still is, a huge push. And buses far from being the ‘problem’ in that fight are our best ally.

          Nick, Joel, and Stu above are all clearly correct that the debate is not between trains and buses for almost all routes in Auckland, but between buses and nothing. Or rather between levels of bus service. Put it this way, if we do succeed in getting rail across the harbour as the next crossing [after Skypath] it will only be because of the success of the NBW and not in spite of it.

        15. Which busway is faster than our rail lines (in terms of EMU rolling stock)? The Northern might be ok for some (most?) of it but it has a weak point – Onewa to Britomart. Or the NW busway, that at this time is proposed to meander along GNR from Waterview (note: the 048X uses the motorway to Nelson St and this is the same route the future WEX buses should take also).

          I’m all for a NW busway but if it went to rail at some time (think Skytrain) yes, you’d need a tunnel but just from alongside the motorway somewhere up to the K’Rd station for an easy transfer to wherever people are going.

        16. I agree Swan, the issue is we replaced our strong PT corridors (in the form of trams) with no PT priority. If we had replaced trams with buses on dedicated right of ways then patronage would likely still have fallen but not by the extent it did (would likely have fallen with trams too).

          Another way to think about this whole debate is to consider how the roading lobby have been so successful for so long. They very rarely do any major project all at once and it is broken down into smaller sections to make it both manageable and palatable. Only now once we are on the cusp of completing the network does the push for the most expensive part happen. What would have happened if the NZTA or its predecessors came to use a decade or so ago and said we are going to build a $4b monster motorway. The public would have stopped it. Going to busways is a good way to use what money we do have to get things going and the key is to get them designed so they are easy to upgrade at a later stage.

        17. Well yes Bryce, I was referring to the speed on the actual busway (where it averages 57km/h, almost 50% faster than the southern line) as opposed the the whole NEX route, but they point still stands it isn’t a poor cousin or a half arsed job.

        18. Ben S claims “the ‘bus experiment’ in Auckland over the past decades has been a failure to large extent.”

          By what metric do you define failure?

          Exhibit A: This graph shows that since the year 2000 patronage on Auckland’s buses has grown by significantly more (in absolute numbers) than patronage on the rail network. In fact, buses have contributed the bulk of growth in our PT patronage.

          This is despite rail receiving the bulk of capex investment, and significantly more OPEX per passenger. Now I don’t begrudge Auckland’s historical investment in rail; I actually think it’s been a very effective investment and will continue to deliver benefits for many decades. I’m a rail fan too.

          But by the same token one cannot ignore that over the last decade or so Auckland’s miserly investment in buses has paid handsome dividends – that cannot and should not be ignored if we are to continue to revitalise this city of ours.

        19. How easy/plausible is it to grade-separate the North Western for a busway? Say from Te Atatu to Newton?

        20. It’s absolutely plausible to add stations and reserve a lane each way from Waterview west with the coming new extra width. From Pt Chev to the city our plan is to leave the motorway give buses full privilege, signals priority, and stations on Gt North Rd. This is where people and destinations are, not down in the gully which is nothing but motorway. But also because of SH16 Great North Rd has plenty of spare capacity for a very high standard and fast bus system. Note these stations would be at RTN distances so; Pt Chev, Western Springs, Grey Lynn, and K’rd.

          Other FTN buses would stop more frequently

          Easy, plausible, affordable, high quality.

        21. The 048X service uses the motorway all the way to Nelson St. From observations, the on-ramp traffic lights do a good job of keeping the on-ramps clear enough of traffic, that buses can quite easily get past with minimal fuss. If there were an interchange at Waterview (or nearby), if cars in the shoulder were removed with the same speed as break downs on the harbour bridge there is no reason why NW buses cannot use the motorway without the expense of a full, grade separated busway.

          As an aside, the current trip from Te Atatu shops to Britomart, at peak times, is 55 minutes (50 for the 048X). Or, about the same time it takes to catch a train from Papakura to Britomart (nearly twice the distance).

        22. Patrick, GNR is going to have to see major improvement in order to qualify as a QTN. As a user of this route, this is the slowest piece of the whole journey. 15 minutes from Waterview to Pitt St last week, in opposite direction to peak traffic.

  4. This is an excellent summary of many of the big picture issues for Auckland’s PT. It made me grumpy – though – to read NZ Herald this morning and see that HOP CARD will lead to increases in the cost of extended PT trips. I suspect this is because of the pressure AT is under to recoup costs/fare box policy – but it is like cutting off your nose to improve your face. In other cities, the more you use your PT, and the more you interconnect between modes, the cheaper your overall trip/kilometre becomes. It is generally accepted that Hong Kong is the only city in the world where PT actually makes money. The density there is enormous.

    You will have made the argument before, but it needs restating, and that relates to the benefit cost – over longer term than just a year or two – of the comparative benefits of prioritising PT improvements (along the lines in the 2030 map in the posting) over and above more road widening and etc improvements.

    1. Of course in Hong Kong they use changes in land value to fund transit development. In Auckland property purchases for say the CRL are counted as a cost in the business case but the sales of those properties later once developed around new stations are not allowed to be counted on the other side of ledger.

      1. Ridiculous situation really. Now that’s a PPP I would support – council / private property developing.

    2. Joel – I don’t think it is so much of a farebox thing (we are on track for that) but more that AT are trying to streamline fares to make the HOP implementation easier. The problem is that there are too many fare products in the market and it would be difficult for HOP to handle them all properly (not impossible but costly to program). A lot of the problem lies in the old ARTA being captured by a technology solution and pushing that first. They should have re-organised and streamlined the fare structure first then implemented HOP on top of that. The fare structure could have been done in the period between Thales being contracted and HOP rolling out. The only point to note though is that the operators have been making it difficult and will likely continue to do so until we can get all routes onto PTOM contracts which won’t even start happening until next year.

      1. That’s useful history. I guess what I’m observing is the risk of upsetting existing patrons (lesson 1 is always to keep existing commuter patrons on board – and only after a very conscious decision – irritate a few in order to benefit the many) and going down the route of defending individual PT projects (on a limited BC by BC basis, which is what has happened with CRLink until very recently), rather than putting forward – as you have in a number of postings – that successful cities have successful and well developed PT systems (as well as explicit commitments to improving pedestrian and cycling facilities at the expense of improving amenity for single occupancy vehicles).

        So I would like to see AT leaving no stone unturned as HOPCARD is rolled out, to not only improve services for existing patrons, but to create new linked service offerings – which can be promoted and used to increase longer double-trip patronage. Where service costs are to increase or be made more difficult (time consuming) then AT needs to be aware of these in advance (they probably are) and develop a communications program so that when NZ Herald does run a piece like they did today, then the upside (benefits to the many) needs to be balanced against the downside (loss of particular service opportunities or increased costs to the few) in AT briefings to the news media – and to the public at large.

        1. That’s why I’m saying they should have consolidated the passes first, come out with a new integrated fares structure for the entire region first that includes proper day passes etc. then implement that through an electronic ticketing solution. One issue we have had is that AT have had to implement far too many fare products onto the HOP cards which would have added costs and time. Even Thales said at the start that having to replicate all fare products would be a bad thing (even though they likely profit from the extra work involved).

          I know that AT have been thinking about daily fare caps but it is being considered a future development. If they had of rationalised the fares it could have been implemented from day one.

        2. They’re thinking about daily fare caps? FFS! There are glaciers withdrawing up mountains faster than AT moves. Other cities already have successful PT systems. Why are we trying to reinvent the wheel? Copy someone, implement it and then tweak out any issues. It can not be any worse than what we have now.

    3. I couldn’t agree more. The way I read the article in the Herald this morning simply means if the plans for fares stay as they are PT patronage will drop because although its already its border line too expensive to use its about to get more expensive by the looks of it. It doesn’t take much to join the dots here to see that rail will not attract more patronage because it will price itself off the market and when making hollow promises to partially fund the CRL Key knew this.

  5. Axing fare discounts will entrench car dependency and traffic congestion… the exact opposite of what Auckland needs.

    Make public transport free at the point of use – no need for expensive ticketing systems, no more boarding delays, get commuters out of cars big-time, no more traffic congestion, stop wasting precious fossil fuels, reduce car accidents, road deaths & pollution, halt extravagant roading projects, cut out road rage… We share the cost of other public services such as libraries, swimming pools & rubbish collection etc – why not public transport? It makes sense: Vote Minto for Mayor – you know which side he’s on: Fare free and frequent, quality public transport for Auckland.

    And check out and read about the global environmental movement and enlightened cities that are opting for free public transport.

  6. Just kidding SF. I knew exactly what you meant. Also, I don’t really want a job at NZTA. I’m just clowning around. Relax. Put your feet up and have a beer. You may or may not have noticed that I enjoy having you around as you’re a good foil and, in my view, make people think.

  7. I agree with Ben. BRT is a second-rate solution which we tolerate for the sake of expediency and affordability, but does anyone here seriously believe there is anything else to recommend it over and obove a modern efficient heavy-rail system?

    I take the point about rail to the North shore being unaffordable in single project – and the busway being a pragmatic way of getting some benefits quickly – but the only reason PT is faced with this penny-pinching regime is because NZ is still first-and-foremost an auto-centric society which happily countenances spending $billions on roading and leaves PT to scrabble over the leftovers. Were this not the case – say if, hypothetically, the RoNS were scrapped and the money became available for serious PT alternatives, then surely we would prioritise rail to major destinations like the North Shore and would not waste time with stop-gap BRT developments.

    If we look at what we really need and really should have, were the world a bit more ideal, then rail would claim its rightful place in all the major corridors.

    1. Dave that’s all sweet, in an ideal world. But affordability is a real constraint and there is nothing to be gained by pretending it doesn’t exist.

      Yes we are at the tail end of a frankly sorry experiment in auto-centricity. But it is a tail that is still trying to vigorously wag the dog, see government policy for example, and not getting on with improving what we can is not the way to bring about change.

      Anyway, I disagree that rail is the best mode for all of these corridors, like along the SH18 route for example. We are complaining about over spending on motorways and we have no interest in simply replacing that with overspending on Transit.

      A proper ‘train-like’ bus service on these new and generous motorway corridors is an extremely effective as well as cost effective way to get high quality transit out to these communities in that Sprawl lands of AK as well as to get more value out of these huge gold plated constructions.

      Also time is an important issue here. There is no doubt that the bus parts of our plan can almost all be implemented before the CRL is built. Of course that is being held up by the institutional mode bias of government but still Rail, as you know, is a permanent and long term solution and takes time to install.

      Of course the CRL is the vital core of the whole network so this is where our advocacy for this mode needs to be focused now, while promoting the wider vision.

      1. Get the bus corridors built and running, implement the UP, get the density required to justify further investment (without investing on widening roads of course), and then have a plan to introduce thinks like the airport line, Nth shore rail, SH16 etc.

        Bear in mind Patrick, that you and others, have (rightly) argued that quality PT (like Skytrain – Takapuna / LRT – Wynyard) can be used to drive density and PT use in areas. Build it and they will come?

        1. Public transport allows density, it doesn’t require it. We have this idea because the PT mode share is so low. If 80% of trips were made on PT rather than the ~4% we have now, we’d get twenty times the ridership with exactly the same density. And mode share depends on price, quality, and speed, all relative to driving. Nothing to do with density in itself – it’s just that density puts a pretty natural limit on our ability to build roads, and so produces congestion, and so makes PT with a dedicated right of way more attractive.

          Lower density makes PT transport more expensive to run, and makes trips take longer – but it has the same effect on driving, too. In any case, I think it’s ridership and particularly mode share that will “justify investment” – when the bulk of voters use PT, they won’t stand for wasting money on roads.

          Which is why I think the single most important thing we can do for PT is to dramatically expand the bus lane network, at the expense of general traffic lanes. It’s a two-fer: reduces capacity for driving and hugely speeds up buses. With a minimal dollar cost, to boot.

          Have a look at on this.

        2. Yup, Steve, bang on. One of the most pernicious lies around over the last 60 odd years, and still repeated now by the government is that their spending simply reflects people’s mode choice. Yeah right. You can’t choose what isn’t there.

          It is the other way round; their spending has shaped our choices.

        3. Bus lanes – bang on. It is a shame our so-called pro PT council has been so inactive in this area

      2. @ Patrick
        Bus lanes on existing roads I have no problem with. And yes, if we find ourselves lumped with legacy motorways such as the North Western that can cheaply accommodate BRT then it makes sense to use them. But where I baulk is at the building of new and expensive BRT infrastructure where rail could provide a better, and more connected solution (e.g.the O-Bahn in Adelaide 30 years ago, and various disused-rail to busway conversions which are happening in Britain at the moment). And lest we forget, BRT runs predominantly on oil, and further oil-dependency is not something sensible administrations will be committing themselves to. The fact that out own roads-obsessed government is completely blind to this, should not sway PT advocates into believing that diesel-powered BRT has a long-term future.

        1. Buses don’t have to run on oil. Electric buses that use contactless rapid charging are in production use overseas, and could be fairly easily deployed to NZ’s streets. There is absolutely a place for BRT, even new BRT, in Auckland. AMETI, for example, will struggle to justify (or get consent for) a rail link at present, but a separated BRT corridor within the road footprint is achievable. Your insistence that we jump immediately from the crap zero-priority bus-slow-transit that we have at present to a fully separated heavy rail corridor would mean that the eastern suburbs will never get rapid transit because there’s no evidence of demand for the cost of full rail and there’s certainly no public support for such a disruptive project.

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